The Health of Nations: Oh, Canada!

Next on our tour of health care systems would have to come Canada. I've been debating whether or not to do them because their setup is so well-known, on the other hand, it's also something of an anomaly that's often romanticized to a degree it shouldn't be, so it seems worth the effort. If you're new to the series, you can find France here and England here. Off we go.

Da Basics: Canada care is unapologetic, no-holds-barred single-payer. The single-payer, by the way, is not Canada as a whole, but each specific province, so it's not quite as monolithic as we think. It's financed by taxes, but the taxes vary from province to province, so there is a certain amount of variation in how the system pays its bills. But I'm going to stay away from that -- keeping you guys still for health policy is dicey enough, if I start throwing in tax policy, my blog will have tumbleweeds blowing through it (and maybe a shoot-out in the saloon, but that's another story).

Like England, Canada's insurance has nothing to do with occupation, age, citizenship, or any other variable. If you're on the grounds of our Northern neighbor, you're covered. The system covers everything, though drug benefits and long-term care vary a bit across provinces. What's interesting about Canada's incarnation of single-payer, though, is how pure it's kept. France and England, as we saw, both have a significant role for supplementary insurance beyond the government's basic offering. Not so in Canada, where add-on insurance isn't even allowed. That makes for a remarkably level playing field. Care varies only according to province (and, assumedly, individual doctors and hospitals), not according to class. Interestingly, low-income Canadians actually receive more care than do the affluent, owing to the higher rates of disease in poorer communities.

To be clear, there is a little bit of supplementary insurance floating around, but it can only be used for certain amenities, like private rooms. Hospitals are simply not allowed to bill private insurers for services covered by the provincial plans. So say nighty-night to the private sector.

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